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9.3 Initialization Macros


Set up the shell to be more compatible with the Bourne shell as standardized by Posix, if possible. This may involve setting environment variables, or setting options, or similar implementation-specific actions. This macro is deprecated, since AS_INIT already invokes it.

— Macro: AS_INIT

Initialize the M4sh environment. This macro calls m4_init, then outputs the #! /bin/sh line, a notice about where the output was generated from, and code to sanitize the environment for the rest of the script. Among other initializations, this sets SHELL to the shell chosen to run the script (see CONFIG_SHELL), and LC_ALL to ensure the C locale. Finally, it changes the current diversion to BODY. AS_INIT is called automatically by AC_INIT and AT_INIT, so shell code in configure, config.status, and testsuite all benefit from a sanitized shell environment.

— Macro: AS_INIT_GENERATED (file, [comment])

Emit shell code to start the creation of a subsidiary shell script in file, including changing file to be executable. This macro populates the child script with information learned from the parent (thus, the emitted code is equivalent in effect, but more efficient, than the code output by AS_INIT, AS_BOURNE_COMPATIBLE, and AS_SHELL_SANITIZE). If present, comment is output near the beginning of the child, prior to the shell initialization code, and is subject to parameter expansion, command substitution, and backslash quote removal. The parent script should check the exit status after this macro, in case file could not be properly created (for example, if the disk was full). If successfully created, the parent script can then proceed to append additional M4sh constructs into the child script.

Note that the child script starts life without a log file open, so if the parent script uses logging (see AS_MESSAGE_LOG_FD), you must temporarily disable any attempts to use the log file until after emitting code to open a log within the child. On the other hand, if the parent script has AS_MESSAGE_FD redirected somewhere besides ‘1’, then the child script already has code that copies stdout to that descriptor. Currently, the suggested idiom for writing a M4sh shell script from within another script is:

          AS_INIT_GENERATED([file], [[# My child script.
          ]]) || { AS_ECHO(["Failed to create child script"]); AS_EXIT; }
          cat >> "file" <<\__EOF__
          # Code to initialize AS_MESSAGE_LOG_FD
          # Additional code

This, however, may change in the future as the M4sh interface is stabilized further.

Also, be aware that use of LINENO within the child script may report line numbers relative to their location in the parent script, even when using AS_LINENO_PREPARE, if the parent script was unable to locate a shell with working LINENO support.


Find a shell that supports the special variable LINENO, which contains the number of the currently executing line. This macro is automatically invoked by AC_INIT in configure scripts.


Set up variable as_me to be the basename of the currently executing script. This macro is automatically invoked by AC_INIT in configure scripts.

— Macro: AS_TMPDIR (prefix, [dir = ‘${TMPDIR:=/tmp}])

Create, as safely as possible, a temporary sub-directory within dir with a name starting with prefix. prefix should be 2-4 characters, to make it slightly easier to identify the owner of the directory. If dir is omitted, then the value of TMPDIR will be used (defaulting to ‘/tmp’). On success, the name of the newly created directory is stored in the shell variable tmp. On error, the script is aborted.

Typically, this macro is coupled with some exit traps to delete the created directory and its contents on exit or interrupt. However, there is a slight window between when the directory is created and when the name is actually known to the shell, so an interrupt at the right moment might leave the temporary directory behind. Hence it is important to use a prefix that makes it easier to determine if a leftover temporary directory from an interrupted script is safe to delete.

The use of the output variable ‘$tmp’ rather than something in the ‘as_’ namespace is historical; it has the unfortunate consequence that reusing this otherwise common name for any other purpose inside your script has the potential to break any cleanup traps designed to remove the temporary directory.


Initialize the shell suitably for configure scripts. This has the effect of AS_BOURNE_COMPATIBLE, and sets some other environment variables for predictable results from configuration tests. For example, it sets LC_ALL to change to the default C locale. See Special Shell Variables. This macro is deprecated, since AS_INIT already invokes it.